Editor’s note: Emily James is marketing content writer at marketing research firm FlexMR, London. 

The task of a researcher today is not as easy as it once was. With the catalyst of technological advancement, traditional qualitative and quantitative market research are joined by numerous denominations of behavioral science, ethnography, machine learning and AI, social media intelligence techniques and so much more; each technique is a puzzle piece capable of fitting in alongside many others in order to create the best tailored research schedule.

It can sometimes be hard to keep track of research best practices and techniques to make sure that you get the best out of your research experience. This is especially true in regard to social media intelligence given that this technique is very public. Here are a few mistakes researchers should avoid when fitting social media intelligence in alongside more traditional research.

1. Not knowing the different facets and capabilities of social media research. 

Social media research started out as just the monitoring of social media channels. The concept has since grown to cover many facets ranging from monitoring, listening and mapping, to analytics and intelligence. Social media intelligence is the most evolved version of social media research today, incorporating the monitoring, listening and analytic techniques of social media data.

Failing to understand the capabilities and limitations of each facet of social media research will result in a lack of knowledge about what you can actually do and stand to gain. This is especially prominent when fitting social media research into active research strategies with more traditional techniques involved and allows for uninformed research to take place. This will always lead to substandard data and insights which are not fit for the purpose of the research experience and the decisions that it will be used to inform. 

Luckily, there is a lot of information online regarding the capabilities of each stage of social media intelligence so researchers know exactly what this technique will contribute in every stage of the experience. 

2. Misaligning active and social media research objectives.

It might be the case that some researchers skip over this step entirely, which means that the objectives for active research goals and social media goals (both research-based and customer service-based) do not get met and the investment of time, money and effort will be wasted. 

This misalignment results in perception gaps for researchers, customers and businesses on what the brand stands for and how it should behave in a way to live up to its archetype, produce relevant and desirable products/services/content. Minimizing the chances of this mistake means holding the objectives of the research and the business itself firmly in mind throughout the research process so that the insights have the best chance of being relevant and actionable. 

3. Not using the right social media platforms.

Each platform has a different type of audience and use. LinkedIn is a professional platform, mainly used for career searching and boosting. Twitter is a platform that specializes in communities and informal conversations through hashtags and threads due to its very public nature. Facebook is a personal and casual platform and is still public, but not as public as Twitter since the members are connected to friends and family members, allowing it to have a more personal and private feel.

When fitting social media into active research strategies, the platform researchers choose will need to match the objectives and purpose of the research experience if accurate and actionable insights are to be gained. This is where the understanding of social media research facets and capabilities will come in handy as it works to inform decisions for the betterment of the research.

4. Being too wary of reinvention and perception.

Social media is a platform for creativity and invention. Brands and members can invent and reinvent themselves according to their own desires, which is a fact that researchers need to be aware of when analyzing the data from social intelligence.

However, being aware doesn’t mean being overly vigilant. Reinvention can be easy to spot through the inconsistencies that will be present in the member’s activity, behavior and interactions; so while this fact can cause some issues for research being conducted on the social media platforms, screener surveys can segment participants based on their answers and route out the participants who reinvent themselves and therefore don’t meet the criteria of the research.

5. Ignoring social media research best practices.

Best practices are there for a reason, especially if social media research is being fit into active research strategies. This cements the fact that data is being actively collected from a variety of sources and will be acted upon. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a case that should be mentioned in all articles on the topic of social media research as an example of what not to do and what can happen to a business that drastically misuses data.

One very poignant best practice is to only gather the data that you really need. This is not unique to social media research. “Just in case” data is all very nice but if it’s not relevant to the objectives at hand it is intensely vulnerable to misuse. 

6. Mimicking competitor strategies.

Monitoring and mapping competitor strategies to mimic them is morally wrong. A more persuasive reason why brands shouldn’t mimic competitor strategies is because it never works out the way they expect or want it to and doesn’t produce the astounding results that they were expecting.

It doesn’t matter if brands are in the same industry, each brand will always have their own unique customer audience and as such tailored business strategies are needed to retain and build up their customer base.

7. Failing to use the social insights to their full potential

This last mistake is less to do with social media and more to do with actioning the insights gained from social media. Because our social media research has been fitted into active research strategies there is a danger that the insights won’t be used to their full potential alongside those gained from research tasks such as surveys and focus groups. So, the question is, how much weight should researchers put onto the insights generated from social media research?

The answer to this question is entirely dependent on the insights generated. Sometimes the insights can work well with the insights gained from traditional research tasks and can be combined to enhance them. Other times, the insights can be contradictory, so the reliability of the source should be taken into account at this point, which can be determined in part by point number four. 

Eliminate mistakes

These seven mistakes are the most common hurdles for researchers to fall on; no matter how basic they may seem these are always the aspects to fall by the wayside when working social media intelligence into active research strategies. For the investments that are made within research and the benefits that can be gained, it is better to take the time and eliminate any chance of mistakes such as these happening.